The Lupus Foundation of America estimated that there are around 1.5 million Americans that have some form of lupus.
Lupus is an inflammatory disease that is caused when your immune system starts to attack its own tissues and organs. This autoimmune disease can affect your skin, joints, and internal organs such as the kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain.
Want to learn more about lupus? You’ve found the perfect blog. Here’s everything you need to know about lupus.
Overview of Lupus
Lupus is an inflammatory disease in which your body’s immune system starts to attack your tissue and internal organs. The inflammation caused by lupus can affect your joints, skin, and vital organs such as your heart, lungs, and brain.
Lupus tends to be a very difficult disease to diagnose since many of its symptoms are similar to other illnesses and ailments. However, the most common symptom to look out for is a distinct facial rash. This rash appears on the face and looks similar to the wings of a butterfly that have unfolded on either cheek.
Certain individuals have a higher chance of developing lupus than others. In these cases, lupus can be triggered by an infection, certain medications, or even too much sunlight. Despite there not being a clear cure for lupus, there are a wide range of treatments available to help minimize your symptoms.
What Causes Lupus?
Lupus is generally caused by a mixture of your hormones, genetics, and environment. Hormones are known to play a vital role in regulating bodily functions, and research has shown that there is a distinct link between estrogen and developing lupus. This is why lupus is more prevalent in women compared to men.
There are around 50 specific genes associated with lupus. These genes are commonly seen in individuals that have lupus but are not believed to directly cause the disease.
Lastly, the environment you’re in plays a pivotal role in triggering lupus. Research points to environmental factors such as ultraviolet light and certain drugs being the most common triggers. There are also a few emotional factors that can trigger lupus, such as exhaustion, emotional stress, and physically induced stress, such as physical harm and pregnancy.
Impact on the Immune System
Your body’s immune system is responsible for finding threats and eliminating them from your body. Lupus causes your body to produce antibodies that attack your own body instead of the threats that may be there. In this way, lupus causes your body to slowly weaken itself over time.
Risk Factors of Lupus
As mentioned above, there are a few distinct factors that influence the risk of developing lupus. These factors include hormones, genes, and the environment. Here’s a breakdown of all three.
Hormones help control and regulate your body on a cellular level. Your hormones and hormonal activities are also deeply linked with your age and sex. This allowed researchers to show that women between the ages of 15 and 44 are far more likely to develop lupus than males.
While lupus can develop in people with no family history of the disease, people with a family history of the disease are more likely to develop lupus. People of a certain background are also at a higher risk. This includes African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians.
While the environment does not cause the development of lupus, it can trigger it. The most common environmental factors include smoking, exposure to sunlight, infections, and various pollutants. These can all influence the risk of triggering lupus in the body.
Symptoms of Lupus
The symptoms of lupus are very similar to other illnesses. Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with the disease.
Signs of Lupus in Females
While lupus can vary from person to person, women are at a much higher risk of developing the disease due to their higher estrogen levels. Symptoms of lupus in women include:
- Hair loss
- Joint pains
- Malar rash
- Sensitivity to sunlight
Signs of Lupus in Males
Despite females being more at risk, males can develop lupus as well. The symptoms of lupus in men include:
- Cardiovascular issues
- Low white blood cell count
- Chest pains
- Weight loss
- Kidney issues
Effect on Other Body Systems
Lupus can have an effect on a variety of other organs within the body. Lupus can cause inflammation in the kidney called lupus nephritis. This disease causes swelling of the legs and can lead to frequent urination and high blood pressure.
Some individuals can develop inflammation in the lungs. This is known as pleurisy and can cause chest pain when breathing. In some cases, this can lead to pneumonia.
Lupus can also cause anemia and leukopenia. This is the decreased number of white blood cells that weaken the overall immune system to make you more vulnerable to other illnesses.
Another unfortunate effect of lupus is bone loss, which is also known as osteoporosis. As is the case with postmenopausal women, their bones can become more brittle, fragile, and susceptible to injury. Fortunately, research has shown that hormone replacement therapy with estrogen can help mitigate osteoporosis for women with lupus just as it can for postmenopausal women.
Lupus is not an easy disease to diagnose. This is because the symptoms of lupus are very similar to other illnesses. To diagnose lupus, a physician will need to conduct various tests and physical examinations.
Your symptoms will then be monitored over a longer period of time to make sure that the diagnosis is correct. Your physician will then explain the various treatment options that are available to help manage your symptoms.
Treatment for Lupus
While there is no cure for lupus, there are various treatments available to help manage the symptoms. This includes various immunosuppressants and steroids to help reduce flare-ups and discomfort. Physicians can help find the right treatments for your individual symptoms.